Dave DiNaso starts his energetic show by wrestling a 5-foot American Alligator with killer teeth from its box and carrying it through the rows of tiny, tender, pink hands.
Dozens of children, and parents, squeal as the predator silently stares back while they stretch to touch its skin. DiNaso keeps a viselike grip on the reptile, which compares to him in size.
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With the gator back in the box, DiNaso takes a deep breath and drags the next large container out from under a table at the St. Charles Public Library Monday morning. He tells how he feeds this carnivore, a Black Throated Monitor Lizard the size of his leg.
"I gotta face the Jewel checkout lady every week with 20 pounds of gizzards and catfish nuggets," he deadpans. "I get a lot of looks."
This was just the beginning of DiNaso's nonstop show. A combination of forked-tongued lizards, powerfully long snakes, and huge dancing frogs follow.
DiNaso's quick-paced monologue of facts and jokes are well received by his young audience, and each creature is patiently under his control for the entire hour. His mission for the last 20 years and 13,000 shows has been to dispel negative stereotypes about the reptiles he brings from around the world, and the ones living in our backyards.
DiNaso brings his show to birthday parties, libraries, schools, scout meetings, corporations and churches. He has appeared in countless newspapers, radio and television shows, and performed for many famous personalities.
His mission remains the same at each of his extremely up-close and hands-on shows -- entertain and inform with facts.